Motorsport students from the University of Bolton are celebrating after their team won both Historic Classic F1 races at Silverstone at the weekend.
Top driver Michael Lyons qualified for pole position in the 1981 Ensign 180B historic F1 car, on Friday.
He then won races on both Saturday and Sunday in the car, which has been prepared by students from the University’s National Centre for Motorsport Engineering (NCME), achieving the fastest lap time on both outings.
The Historic F1 Ensign car at The Classic at Silverstone
The iconic Ensign car has been loaned to the University by Bob Fernley, a motor racing stalwart, who has run teams on both sides of the Atlantic in Can Am, IndyCar and F1.
The student-run team has developed and enhanced the car’s performance from a programme that started last year with Johnny Herbert at the wheel.
Johnathan Hyde, who graduated this summer and is progressing to an NCME MSc programme, was chief mechanic responsible for the car’s preparation.
He said: “This experience has been amazing, and we have all learnt so much.
“When things don’t go right you learn to work twice as hard, and it’s not about having the will to win, but working hard to get the win.
“This journey has been a rollercoaster ride and couldn’t have ended any better. Thank you to the NCME for giving me the chance, and the best experience anyone could dream of.
Bob said: “Before partnering with the University of Bolton with a view to providing their students the opportunity to gain hands-on practical, technical and scientific Formula one experience, the last time I raced the Ensign 180B was 1982.
“It is testament to the skills, hard work and dedication of everyone involved in the project to take a 40-year-old car, rebuild it and then compete in the Silverstone Classic Historic Formula One event, securing pole position, winning the two races and posting fastest laps in both races. It represents a feat very few F1 teams achieve.
“It has been an absolute pleasure to support the University of Bolton with the use of my old F1 cars and mentor their students.
“I look forward to working with them as we expand the programme in the future.”
Lyons said: “I am very impressed with the University programme and the total professionalism from the Bolton students.
“I can see the experience and support they have from the team’s knowledgeable staff.
“Being drafted to fill Johnny Herbert’s shoes was a big ask, and I am very happy with the weekend’s outcome.
“It has been very interesting to follow the students getting on with the engineering of the Ensign. A big thanks to Robert for the invitation to drive his great car.”
Lyons became familiar with the classic car when it was put through its paces before Silverstone in track tests at RAF Marham and the Anglesey race circuit.
The Silverstone Classic weekend was the culmination of more than 18 months’ work to understand the 40-year-old ground effect Ensign F1 car.
The event is the largest classic race event in the UK annually and the ultimate test of performance for classic race cars, with some very competitive historic F1 cars entered from Lotus, McLaren, Tyrell and Williams.
The motorsport students have had a particularly challenging year because of the pandemic and have had to work in Covid mitigation bubble groups.
Mark Busfield, Director of NCME, who pioneered the course at the University of Bolton with a dedicated team of Industry and academic specialists in 2017, said: “I would like to thank Robert Fernley for loaning us his wonderful Ensign N180B and giving our students this insightful project.
“Special thanks to ROKiT for sponsoring the project, and to our students and support team for the weeks of work and dedication to get this level of success.”
Meanwhile, the NCME has a ‘Fast Track to F1’ programme with two sponsors, Kingfisher and ROKiT, who will support one student each through their NCME undergraduate three-year programme, covering the course fees and a monthly stipend to help with finances. This bursary is available to any UK resident student joining the University of Bolton in September 2021, who has put the University as first choice.